Tuesday, 26 September 2017

Festive boost for shops

HENLEY’S independent retailers enjoyed a boost in trade over Christmas and the New Year.

Most said the increase in footfall throughout December was at least on a par with previous years while some enjoyed their best festive season ever.

Liz Felix, who opened her millinery shop in Reading Road in 2014, said last month’s takings were better than her first two Decembers combined.

She said: “I don’t know why I did so well. Perhaps it’s because I now stock a wider range of hats and cater for men as well as ladies.

“I think I’ve established more of a reputation and the word is getting out about the shop. There wasn’t any one item that sold particularly well — I just had healthy sales across the board.”

Mandy Bowden, who owns women’s fashion outlets Daisy Boutique and Henley Frocks in Friday Street, also took a record amount.

She opened the boutique eight years ago and launched Henley Frocks at the former Knights Oriental Rugs premises last May.

She said: “I don’t know why, but it has been a fantastic year. I would say sales were up a good 25 per cent and the same was true at my shop in Marlow.

“The Christmas Festival was great as we had a Living Advent Calendar performance in Friday Street and it bought lots of people into both shops. I hadn’t expected to do so well.

“I can’t compare Henley Frocks with previous years but I hit my target for my first year. I’m getting lots of loyal custom from Invesco Perpetual staff and the ladies of Leander Club and Phyllis Court Club, which is what I wanted.

“It just shows that if you’re selling what people want, it will attract trade no matter where in town you’re based.”

Café and delicatessen Spoon, which opened at the former Noa Noa womenswear unit in Duke Street in October, also enjoyed a busy advent period.

Owner Cindy Gillett said: “December was absolutely manic. We thought it would calm down between Christmas and New Year so we reduced our opening hours but it was just as busy.

“There was a great atmosphere as we had Christmas music playing and all the staff wore reindeer antlers or festive hats. Things have been great since we opened and hopefully this year will be even better.”

Bagatelle Toys in Bell Street also saw an upturn in trade with the best sellers being Lego models and Pokémon trading cards.

Manager Nicholas Carlton said: “We were worried about the growing popularity of internet shopping, especially as Amazon now has a collection point at the station. 

“However, we’ve got some very loyal customers and performed better than we’d feared, which was nice. 

“The week before Christmas was pretty phenomenal. I wonder whether some people were worried about receiving online orders in time because of the postal strike.

“Generally, footfall remains a problem in Henley but at least customers are spending more than they were during the recession a few years ago.”

Matt Stone, co-owner of Duke Street chocolatier Gorvett & Stone, said: “This Christmas saw a slight increase in trade on previous years. It wasn’t hugely significant but we were very busy and sales were good.

“We opened every Sunday in December and lots of people came in.”

Barry Wagner, owner of Gabriel Machin butcher’s in Market Place, said: “Christmas was very good and compared favourably with previous years. Turkey orders were high as usual and there was more demand for goose, which was nice.”

Hilary Redhead, manager of the Bell Bookshop in Bell Street, which celebrated its 50th anniversary in November, said: “We’re still working out the figures but Christmas is shaping up to be better than last year.

“The late night shopping was very enjoyable and brought a lot of people in.”

Laurence Morris, who owns Laurence menswear in Duke Street, said: “Our Christmas wasn’t as good as last year, which was exceptionally good. However, it was still very healthy and I was pleased with how we did.”

James Miller, who runs Henley Cycles in Reading Road, said: “Things for us were neither great nor awful. One particular brand of children’s bike sold very well and that pretty much saved our Christmas.

“However, we didn’t get as many people coming in for the little purchases and I guess that’s because of online shopping.”

Joan Bland, who runs the Asquiths teddy bear shop in New Street, said: “Christmas was very quiet but trade has increased this month and that seems to be the pattern for us.

“A lot of people seem to do their shopping once Christmas is over as they’ll have been given some money and the sales are on.”

Gillian Nahum, who runs the nautical-themed Boatique gift shop in Friday Street, said Christmas was “pretty good” but takings were still down on last year.

She said: “I don’t know if it was the weather but we were down by about 20 per cent. It makes me laugh when the likes of Next worry about a 0.5 per cent drop.”

Ms Nahum plans to close the shop and concentrate her efforts on Henley Sales and Charter, her other business.

She said: “It’s disappointing but that’s just the way independent retail seems to be going. It would help if people could trial shop units on a short-term basis as a long lease is a risky commitment that many aren’t prepared to make.”

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